Cricket matches between India and Pakistan evoke strong emotions in both countries. Set against this highly charged background, Aman ki Asha (Hope for Peace), an initiative by Bennett, Coleman & Co Ltd (BCCL)-owned Times of India and Pakistan's Jung Group, has launched its latest campaign, 'Competitors, not enemies'.
Conceptualised by Taproot, the scripts of the three ad films cleverly weave in the message of goodwill with current developments that are relevant to both countries, such as the Sania-Shoaib wedding and Sachin Tendulkar's retirement. Besides being topical in its release, the campaign thankfully does not resort to clichéd references to common ethnicity. Instead, it is woven around characters who agree to disagree on various subjects, including cricket. What distinguishes the characters is what they speak and the way they speak; there are no visual clues.
In the Kajal ad, two ladies shopping at the popular Delhi Haat, argue about the good looks of the cricketers. In the middle of the argument, the Indian girl helps the Pakistani girl wipe away her smeared kohl, while the Pakistani woman corrects her Indian counterpart, saying, "Kajal nahi, surma", to which the Indian woman smilingly retorts, "Joh bhi ho, maine theek kar diya."
In the Passport ad, also shot in Delhi, two men watching a cricket match on TV at a restaurant begin an argument on Tendulkar's retirement from One Day Internationals. When the Pakistani goes off to attend a call, he requests the other to take care of his passport. The Indian saves his seat, admonishing the waiter who comes to take it away, saying, "Apna baitha hai yaar".
The Old Men ad, which is shot in the backdrop of Mumbai's notable landmark Taj Hotel and the Gateway of India, shows two elderly men engaged in a clash of words about the charisma and knowledge of former cricketers. However, when the Indian man is about to trip, the Pakistani man supports him.
All three ad films end with the Aman ki Asha logo and the text, 'Celebrates Indo-Pak cricket'.
Since language played a distinguishing role in the TVCs, a language expert from Delhi was brought on board to fine tune the delivery. This was important as the agency wanted to avoid stereotyping any character in the films. The ad films were directed by Gajraj Rao and Code Red Films was the production house.
Agnello Dias, chairman and co-founder, Taproot, says that even though people describe an Indian-Pakistan cricket encounter as war, it is an opportunity to further the thrust of the Aman ki Asha campaign. "It diffuses irrational hatred between common people of both countries. Hence, the brief was to show how we can be passionate about our own nationalities without falling below a basic level of humanity. We thought it was a great way of showing our love for our respective cricket teams, and also respect for another human being," he adds.
Despite the sensitive relation between the two nations, Dias says they did not face any problem while executing the concept.
"Gajraj had some hard work getting the nuances of the characters right. The challenge was to avoid stereotyping people in order to strip them of the artificial garb that we end up showing so often in order to depict their ethnicity," he says.
The pennydrop moment in the new campaign, after the friendly bantering, could have been more emotionally impactful, she notes. "But yes, overall, it is well scripted and delivers on the message," she states.
Satbir Singh, managing partner and chief creative officer, Havas Worldwide India, says that the campaign puts across its point in an engaging manner. "The campaign celebrates the fact that on either side of the border, we're quite similar. We're both passionate about our teams. We both think they're infallible. In our heart, we also know that there are more similarities between the two nations than differences. If you mute the dialogues, you wouldn't be able to make out who is from here and who's the visitor," he notes.
He adds that on a philosophical level, the campaign exhorts people to celebrate the competitiveness and not let it degenerate into enmity.